If you are travelling along the Newell Highway just a few kilometres north of the township of Parkes in Central West NSW you will glimpse something quite unexpected through the trees. It is the CSIRO Parkes Radio Telescope, better known as The Dish.
Parkes is a well established town with a population of around 12,000 people. The Parkes Elvis Festival, which is held yearly, attracts hundreds of visitors to the town. As does The Dish!
THE DISH – FAST FACTS
- The Parkes Radio Telescope was built in 1961
- It is a 64 metre in diameter parabolic dish used for radio astronomy.
- A parabolic dish is a reflective surface or mirror used to collect or project energy such as light, sound, or radio waves.
- There have been numerous upgrades made to the telescope over the years.
- Only the telescopes basic structure remains unchanged.
- It is now 10000 times more sensitive than when it was first built.
- The telescope works day and night and can work through rain and cloud.
APOLLO 11 MISSION
During the Apollo 11 mission to the moon The Dish was used to receive weak radio signals. These came from the lunar module after the astronauts made the first landing on the moon. Staff were kept on hand in case the power failed and the telescope had to be moved manually.
The Australian film titled ‘The Dish’ was released in 2000 and although some of the facts differed greatly from the actual event, this movie went a long way to putting Parkes and The Dish on the map.
The Visitors Discovery Centre is a great place to visit and learn how The Dish works and what it does. Best of all the Centre is free, except for the 3D theatre which is $25 for a family of 4. The visitors centre is open every day (excluding Christmas Day and Boxing Day) There is a coffee shop and BBQ or picnic facilities available as well.
If you are looking for somewhere to camp the Goobang National Park is just a few kilometres north of the telescope. There are toilets and BBQ’s available as well as spectacular scenery.